Throughout Paul Feig‘s career, the director and producer has collaborated with many beloved female actors — and received some pretty offensive advice about working with them.
Years before he would go on to reboot “Ghostbusters” with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, some of his male colleagues told him what to expect when he had more than one leading lady.
“I had some male producer say, ‘Oh boy, get ready. It’s going to be tough, you’re going to have catfights,’” the director revealed at Saturday’s Produced By Conference on the Sony lot.
“And I said, ‘Who the f— are you?’ It was the most wonderful experience I’ve had,” said the filmmaker, who has directed the female ensemble comedy “Bridesmaids” and the Sandra Bullock–Melissa McCarthy buddy comedy “The Heat.”
“Guys have an image of women and since guys make so many movies, their take on women goes into movies,” he said, though he didn’t indicate which film the producer warned him about or who the producer was. “That take on women is mainly mom, girlfriend …they get their revenge through movies, you see it in these characters,” he added.
Feig dug even deeper into the conversation of gender disparity. “It’s this self-perpetuating thing because very few people have been creating roles for women on the screen,” he said, adding that he struggles every day with “Ghostbusters.”
“It’s my fourth film and we are struggling every day to go against that bias,” he added. “We still get called in the press as a ‘chick flick.’ We are always referred to as the all-female ‘Ghostbusters.’ It’s just an uphill battle and I can’t believe we are having to deal with it.”
“Ghostbusters” has been attacked for several reasons, including the all-female cast, the casting of Leslie Jones particularly, and the fact that there will even be a reboot of the 1984 classic.
“I have been hit with the most misogynistic stuff. The onslaught that came in was just so chilling,” he said. “There were a bunch of people that were angry that there was a reboot … I feel bad that many have taken a bad look at Leslie Jones‘ character. We originally wrote it for Melissa, and then when we were putting it together, we figured Melissa had played a role like that before. Leslie is so funny at playing this kind of a character that we put her in there. I am the first to admit, while I am a fighter for women, my record for diversity has not been as good and I take responsibility for that.”
The official trade conference of the Producers Guild of America, Produced By, is being held this year at Sony Pictures in Los Angeles.
The panel featured representatives from The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in conversation with industry experts to discuss how contributions from women and minorities affect change at every level of the creative process.
Panelists included Feig, Lydia Dean Pilcher, USC Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative director Stacy Smith and actress Octavia Spencer. Dr. Jo Handelsman appeared on behalf of the White House OST, along with Dropbox Head of Diversity Judith Williams.
“Ghostbusters” will hit theaters July 15.
For the record: An earlier version of this post said the male producer in question told Feig to expect catfights on the set of “Ghostbusters.” Feig was referring to a project earlier in his career.